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I just want to take a moment to share an experience with you. I normally post positive experiences or situations that went well. This one is different. Although there was not a bad outcome, the call itself went poorly, mostly due to my lack of focus.

I am the first to preach tactical proficiency and the first to tell people that training is the most important task, outside of calls, that we can do while at work. Let me be the first, now, to share with you how things can go bad from the dispatch because of a lack of focus. Let me share and hopefully you will learn from my mistakes

During a recent rotation we were in our spare pumper. I am normally on a quint and it is in the shop, so we are running out of our spare pumper. Since we are in the spare, our dispatch has a habit of not dispatching us to our own still area because we don't have the ladder. Go figure, right?

Well, on this day we are preparing dinner and the district tones drop for a commercial first alarm, smoke coming from the basement. At first I didn't think much of it. Then, I was thinking that the address sounded like an apartment complex in my still area. Sure enough, they did not dispatch us to our own call.

Now we're already behind the 8 ball. I rounded up the company and we started bunking out. We are in a hurry and I am feeling a little anxious. As we pull out, one of our compartment doors is open and we have to stop to shut it. Not typical! But, you can start to see how things start to go bad before you ever get there. And, it can happen to the best of us, and quite honestly, I was extremely embarrassed afterwards.

As we were responding our computer was not working and our pager did not activate because we were not on the initial dispatch. We got the address and proceeded. As we entered the complex we knew that the building fronted one street and backed another and access could be made from either road. Some people standing on the road directed us in: to the wrong side of the building! I normally trust my instincts and this time I did not and made things even worse.

My size up was rushed and incomplete and I left the truck without my normal tool selection of New York hook, but I did take the TIC. It was going to be a long stretch once we found the correct unit.

As it was, maintenance was already on the scene repairing the burned out blower motor on the unit's AC. No fire, no hazards and luckily, it ended my lack of focus.

These were all of my decisions and they were not good ones. I was angry with myself as someone who trains and studies our profession. I was also embarrassed that I made such elementary mistakes.

I share this show how easy it can be to screw up. Had we had a fire I would like to think that I would have hit the reset button, but who really knows. I would like to think I would have reverted back to my training when it really mattered.

The point is this, stay vigilant, train and train some more. Discuss you short comings and fix them. We are all going to have bad days and we need to limit them as much as possible.

I can assure you that this call will stick with me longer than the ones that went well; I want to make sure I never respond at a call this way again. It happens fast and without notice. Be tactically patient and train hard.

Thanks and learn from others.


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Comment by Jason Hoevelmann on August 8, 2013 at 12:49pm

Bobby, thanks for the encouragement and kind words. I really appreciate it.  As always, travel safe and the best to you and your family.  Jason

Comment by Bobby Halton on July 12, 2013 at 9:58am

Jason, thanks for sharing this with us, it shows how things can cascade when we are under stress and making critical decisions. The best part of your story is the fact that you spend a good amount of time evaluating your experiences the good and the bad and that is why you are such an outstanding instructor and company officer. 

Comment by Jason Hoevelmann on June 27, 2013 at 8:02pm


Thanks, I really appreciate it.


Comment by Michael Bricault (ret) on June 27, 2013 at 1:37pm

The author Robert Parker once wrote that, you can see the confidence of a truly experienced professional not by all the stories they have in which they are the hero that did everything correctly; rather a truly confident professional is the one that is comfortable enough to talk about themselves and reveal their mistakes.

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